Sunday, January 19, 2020

5 Ways to Make Writing Sprints Work For You

Writing sprints are a go-to of writing retreats and intensives and there is good reason for that. Writing sprints force you to get on paper what is otherwise just running around your head. When engaging in writing sprints, one of several things is bound to happen. You will break open a creative spring. You will get more words on the page than you would have if you simply waited for inspiration to strike. Or you will flesh out your project more fully. 

Now that you're convinced; here are 5 ways to make writing sprints work for you. 

1. Decide on a word count or timed session. 

The benefit to a word count is that you know when you end and it is easy to work towards. Take 1000 words, for example. Start with one sentence, note the word count, then add 100 words to that, note the new word count, add 100 words and so on. Even for the very easily distracted among us (myself included) the constantly moving target and the achievement of hitting each 100 word mini goal will take you to the end of the sprint. If you simply must walk away mid sprint, it is also relatively easy to pick up where you left off. If you are truly forcing yourself to hit each 100 word target on a particularly distracted day, it may help to have a concurrent household project such as folding laundry and let yourself fold 10 items between 100 word outputs to recharge your bored or restless brain 

2. Decide on the subject matter. 

Getting your material to page directly fights and engages with the tendency to just daydream and think pleasant thoughts about your storyline, premise, projects, and scenes. It is the way you are forcing yourself to take the next step. Whether you are working on a scene, a chapter, or a blog post, deciding on content will allow you to get there in your head. It will allow your stream of consciousness to take over. It will theme up your output. It will allow you to more fully develop what has been mere concepts to this point. If you have distracting sub-plotlines or competing topics pop up, simply note them on a sheet of paper to the side of your laptop or notebook. Then you can use them as a starting point for your next scheduled sprint or file them away for future projects.

3. Decide on the starting point. 

Even once you know what you'll be writing about, you need to know where you are starting so you are not spending your time typing, deleting, and retyping or simply staring at a blinking cursor. You may find it is helpful to start with a dramatic sentence, a random word or a character name and then start riffing. Speak out loud if it is helpful. If you want to have a simple way to rush into each next paragraph when you run stuck, you can have a list of prompts pre-typed on the screen before you start and use them as you need them as you go along. If you find yourself wanting to write more on another scene or find a plot hole as you go along, write your questions or developments in brackets so you can find them and sort them out when you come back to the scene later.

4. Decide on the tracking mechanism. 

You can write your words as logged on an envelope and then the session’s list in your social media stories as I do. I find it helps my accountability and also scratches the affirmation itch I get by keeping public tally of my writing sessions (for my own benefit even if no one else notices). If it helps someone else pick up the habit, even better, but primarily I do it for my own motivation. At the end, I can put them into a story highlight and affirm the frequency to myself.  This same tracking habit can be completed on paper in a daytimer, calendar, or bullet journal for personal satisfaction and motivation. Do what resonates with you and doesn't cause extra in the way of steps. If you work it into your existing daily routines, it will be a lot easier to keep up with.

5. Decide on the frequency. 

Whether writing sprints are something you want to practice daily or weekly or in spurts on set-aside days; build in the time and opportunity so that you are setting yourself up for success. Add them to your to-do lists, your lunch hours, your after work decompression time, or your early morning day routine. Not only will you be impressed with what you can accomplish in a relatively short amount of time, but you will also be affirming, in process, your writer identity. This is something you do and enjoy doing because you are a writer and because doing so helps you process your world and gives your creative spirit breathing room.

Best wishes  as you experience the joy of watching your word counts climb and your writing practice flourish all because of a simple process you can start on today.

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